It won’t just be one October Evening celebrating local horror film, fashion, music and dance, but two as the popular event goes beyond the grave and into the world of ghosts.
Local filmmaker Stephen Simmons and Pretty Macabre owner and fashion designer Andrea Hansen are marking the 12th edition of An October Evening and promising less campy comedy and more darkness — an effect, Simmons said, of growing up.
“This year definitely has a darker feel,” he said. “A lot of the artists behind the work have had a rough couple of years. It shows in their work. There is a lot of change and maturity in our films. We have all kind of grown up with each other in the past 12 years. We’re trying to do something a little more adult.”
For the first time since its inception, An October Evening will run two nights at the Masonic Temple on Friday, Oct. 20, and Saturday, Oct. 21.
“We wanted to expand the show,” Simmons said. “Our goal is to have An October Evening every weekend in October. In extending for two nights, we are going to experiment with that and see how it goes.”
An October Evening
This year’s lineup includes music by Vadawave and Kagan Breitenbach, theatrical dance performances, horror couture fashion by Pretty Macabre and original films by Conor Long, Stephen King Simmons, David Komatar and Mathew Pool.
When • Friday and Saturday, Oct. 20-21, 7 to 10 p.m.
Where • The Historic Masonic Temple, 650 E. South Temple, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $15; saltlakefilmsociety.org and Tower Theater box office, 876 E. 900 South, Salt Lake City
On a recent early October evening, Simmons and Hansen, filmmakers Conor Long and David Komatar and graphic designer James Ramirez gathered around Simmons’ kitchen table talking about this year’s event and the months of work the group has put in to give audience members a ghostly evening to remember. Simmons — who has notoriously hinted in years past that the event will soon see its final act — said he’s finally accepted that he just can’t quit An October Evening.
“It’s year 12, and this is the first time I haven’t said, ‘If there is a next year,’ ” he said with a laugh.
Last year, An October Evening went campy with an ’80s horror theme. This year, it’s the eeriness of the unknown — the crackling voices picked up on a recording; the sudden slam of a door — that drew Simmons and crew to ghosts.
“I feel like Utah loves ghosts. Utah has a huge haunted history behind it,” Simmons said.
“This year’s theme intrigued me,” said Komatar. “I don’t believe in ghosts, but I believe in the reasons that people have ghosts, and that’s interesting territory to explore for a film.”
Long, who also has a film in the event, has been involved with An October Evening for nine years. This year, he premieres one short film along with a few mini skits to bring some light to the darkness. He too does not believe in ghosts, but was drawn to this year’s theme.
“Ghosts to me are the only creature that has no rules,” he said. “Ghosts are so vague and ethereal that you can make them be whatever you want them to be. It provides an artist or a filmmaker a lot of room to play and create their own set of rules.”
Hansen, who co-hosts the event for the second year in a row, dove into the darker side of ghost stories to design a slew of new fashion pieces for the AOE runway. Vocalist Megan Allman will be outfitted in what Hansen described as a “haunted-mansion-lounge-singer-awesomeness” gown while she performs. And Kagan Breitenbach returns with the eerie orchestral sounds of Quartet Macabre.
“I will be doing a pretty dark, ghostly demonical demonic runway show, which will be fun for me to do,” Hansen said. “Becoming a co-host of the show has helped me be more creative with what I put in the show. I wanted to branch out from traditional runway stuff and make it more of a theatrical show that tells a story and has a feeling behind it. It’s given me an opportunity to take the theme mixed with the variety we have in the show and helps create the live aspect of the show compared to the film.”
In celebration of An October Evening’s theme, event organizers Stephen Simmons and Andrea Hansen and graphic artist James Ramirez shared ghost encounters of their own.
- Simmons: “One of the short films this year is called ‘Night Terror’ and it was filmed at Asylum 49 [in Tooele]. That place is reported to be haunted. Nothing really happened as we were filming. But when I got home and started editing, I had two electronic voice phenomena on the sound. When we say quiet on the set, we really mean it. When you have voices like this that you pick up when you are filming, it‘s not only highly unusual, but it’s freaky. Especially when the voices are saying, and I quote, ‘Kill me.’”
- Hansen: “We were filming Stephen‘s film at Asylum — Asylum is an old hospital where half of it is a haunted house and half is a hospital. It was 4:30 in the morning and we were closing up, turning off all the lights in the halls of the hospital. I go down in the middle [of one of the ward halls] and there are three light switches. I turned them all off and the lights didn’t go off. I flipped them a few times and didn’t understand why the lights weren’t going off. I walked to the end of the hall and tried those light switches. I walked back and forth trying several times. Finally, I walked over to someone that worked in the asylum and told them, ‘I can’t get the lights to turn off in the hallway.’ She was like, ‘Oh, you have to ask them politely — the ghosts.’ She goes down to the hall and says, ‘We are ready to close up.’ She flipped the same switch that I tried multiple times and the lights went off. When she asked [the ghosts] to turn the lights off, she was able to turn them off.”
- Ramirez: “[Stephen and I] were both working [at the Tower Theater]. Stephen was in the main auditorium and I was in the lobby. I heard footsteps upstairs and I thought it was Stephen. I walked into the auditorium and saw him sitting way down in one of the seats down by the stage. I was like, ‘If you’re sitting there, who is walking around upstairs?’ Stephen thought it was me walking upstairs because I had a white T-shirt on and he saw someone in white walking upstairs.”
- Simmons: “I was on the phone and I saw a person out of the corner of my vision and thought, ‘It’s just James.’ I said to James, ‘I am going to re-enact the footsteps and you’re gonna sit down here. As soon as you hear footsteps, you say “Stop.”’ I walked over to where I saw the person walking around and as soon as I stepped over there, James said, ’That’s it!’ Those are ghost steps, man. Ghost steps.“
Correction: Oct. 16, 4:20 p.m. • An earlier version of this story included an incorrect ticket price. Tickets are $15.